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Knights bounce back, beat Tritons 6-1

North Fort Myers regains top spot in softball district

April 11, 2018
By PETE SISK ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Facing a must-win situation, the young North Fort Myers Red Knights clinched the top seed in the district tournament.

North (16-5, 11-1 District 6A-11) defeated Mariner 6-1 on Friday at Bobbie Dewey Field in North Fort Myers to earn home field for the district tournament later this month.

"Mariner's a good ball club," North Fort Myers coach Jeff Minor said. "Their first four hitters, those first four can swing the bat."

Mariner's 3-2 win Tuesday meant that North Fort Myers had to win Friday in order to earn the top seed in District 6A-11. Had the Tritons (12-6, 8-2) won Friday, Mariner would have garnered home field advantage in the tournament with one win in their two games next week against Port Charlotte.

The way Friday's game began, it looked like Mariner might just move into that top spot. The Tritons loaded the bases in the top of the first with one out. Kennedy Burnham's single scored Georgia Waddell, but relay throws cut down runners and home and third. What seemed to be a big inning in the making came to an abrupt halt.

Then the Red Knights, with a lineup featuring five freshmen, came up in the bottom of the inning and scored three times. Sajarie Jones doubled, then raced home from second on an infield error. Natavia Ellis tripled in Haley Weaver, and Emma Johnson singled to score Ellis.

Johnson went the distance on the mound for the Red Knights. There were control problems at times with six walks in the last four innings, but no runs allowed after the first.

"Pitching and defense wins ball games," Minor said. "Pitching (Johnson) hadn't pitched in about three weeks. She's been hurt. She came back and threw a nice ball game. We played nice defense, and our catcher's (Alexis Morris) doing a nice job behind the plate. She's a freshman."

Jones would knock in a run and score a second time in the fourth. In the fifth, Sarah Giompalo doubled and eventually came home on Aiyana "Ya-Ya" Graham's RBI bunt for a 6-1 Red Knights lead.

"We came out with fire, and the bottom of the order contributed with a double of bunts," Minor said.

"We've got five ninth graders in the lineup. It's tough. But they come through and they play well. We've only got two seniors in the lineup. They get on base and and hit the ball well, and they're like the engine that gives us heart."

Meanwhile, the Tritons came close but couldn't close the deal. Mariner loaded the bases in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, but didn't score.

"We couldn't get the hit when we needed it," Tritons' coach Rachel Holloway said. "We hit, but we just couldn't get the timely hit."

The Tritons need at least one win against third-place Port Charlotte (7-3 district, 9-10 overall) to earn the second seed in the tournament. The Pirates were set to visit Mariner on Tuesday, and Mariner heads up to Port Charlotte next Friday.

Make no mistake: Mariner's goal is to get back on the field against North Fort Myers, first in the district tournament, then perhaps again in the state playoffs.

"We've got to beat Port Charlotte twice next week and we'll be second seed," Holloway said. "We'll be all right.

"We know on our best day, we proved Tuesday that on our best day we can beat (North). Tonight they got the hits and our pitcher didn't pitch her best.

"We'll be all right. We'll see them again."

North Fort Myers has five regular-season games remaining, all outside the district, beginning with Naples on Monday.

"We'll see them again," Minor said. "Possibly two times."

And, as Minor pointed out, at least the first rematch will be at Bobbie Dewey Field.



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